Blood of Elves

Andrzej Sapkowski
Blood of Elves Cover

Blood of Elves


I could have played a drinking game based on how many times the phrase "blood of elves" came up in the first chapter of the book. Not that I'm complaining. In fact, a good few drinks would have added to the fun I had listening to this audiobook.

This is listed as the third book in The Witcher series, with two short story collections coming before it, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. It's not necessary to read either of these to appreciate Blood of Elves, but it's definitely to your advantage. I've read only the Last Wish, so I'm aware of many of the players and the politics involved, though I am missing some of the backstory on Ciri, the princess promised to Geralt who escaped harrowing events at Cintra, and Yennefer, the sort of love of Geralt's life. I've also played some of The Witcher games which definitely isn't necessary to enjoy the stories, but for me, it made for an intriguing character and medium transfer study. Sapkowski has distanced himself from the games, stating that they are dissimilar in many ways--which is true. But part of my enjoyment of the books has come from seeing where the game story writers have cherry picked scenes and characters and political machinations to create their own version. Most of the characters and their personalities and motivations are in tact, even if they serve different purposes than that of their original form. It makes me want to see how this story translates in The Hexer movie that was released in Poland in 2001 and it makes me very eager for the 2017 movie to come, especially if I could have Mads Mikkelsen as Geralt.

Mads Mikkelsen
Pretty please?

Blood of Elves introduces us to a world on the brink of war between the various races. Tensions between humans and non humans runs high, and that doesn't bode well for Geralt and his witcher companions. The witchers' are monster hunters. They have no interest in the politics and Geralt intends to stay neutral (an element of the books that factors in greatly with the games).

"I'm a witcher. An artificially created mutant. I kill monsters for money. I defend children when their parents pay me to."

That's all well and good, Geralt, until you make a royal couple swear an oath promising you their first born child. This is Ciri, the Princess of Cintra, who is now in the care of the witchers at their home of Kaer Morhen. Only, there's more to Ciri than the witchers can handle, which is why they request the aid of the enchantress, Triss Merigold, who also points out that the witchers are all big stupid men who don't know how to treat a 12-year-old girl, much less a princess. Here's where I praise Sapkowski for not only writing about menstruation as if it's a normal part of life that happens to women all the time, but also for making Triss' interactions with the witchers--even the sexist jerks--so hilarious. In fact, the whole book is quite funny. Sapkowski's tongue is often firmly in cheek, but he also writes very dark and very emotional scenes--all of this together creates some very endearing characters.

This is a slow burn in terms of the greater political plot. There are monsters fought--both human and supernatural--but the story does not end with any kind of climactic wrap up or cliffhanger confrontation. Instead, it works to solidify Ciri's role and her relationships. Geralt is the main character in this story, but so too is this princess who carries the blood of elves within veins and exhibits magic in very unusual and prophetic ways.

Peter Kenny narrates this audiobook and it is quite fitting that the story opens with Dandelion, the bard's creative retelling of certain events. Kenny does an excellent job, and though I definitely want Mads Mikkelsen, Kenny's Geralt pleasantly reminds me of Zach McGowan, with a nice brogue.

I still have to get around to playing the third Witcher game. While I know that it diverges greatly from this book, reading the books makes me want to spend as much time with the characters as I can, in whatever form they come in.